Women struggle to get their voices heard in household decisions

Preeti Mehra New Delhi | Updated on July 11, 2011


Over sixty per cent of women in India have no say in simple decisions making in the family.

Even exercising their own judgment in healthcare, daily need purchases, large household buying choices or visits to family and friends is not in their purview, says a latest UN Women report.

UN report

The ‘Progress of the World's Women 2011-12: In Pursuit of Justice' report released this week, puts the autonomy enjoyed by Indian women on household decisions at par with those in African countries such as Uganda, Zambia and Swaziland. Among Asian countries, India, along with Nepal, is clearly at the bottom of the rung in terms of its women exercising self-determination.

The report shows data from household surveys in 30 countries across the world in the age group 15 to 49. It reveals that in 18 countries, more than half the married women have no say in every day household decisions. This bottom of the pyramid discrimination combined with social barriers and institutional hurdles makes it very difficult for women to access the formal justice chain.

“Women's reliance on male relatives can be a particular barrier since in cases related to violence, family laws or inheritance, the case is likely to be taken against a family member, whom she may rely upon financially,” points out the report.

It emphasises that while accessing the judicial system in a developing country is a challenge for the underprivileged, women face a double whammy due to lack of time, money, education and autonomy.

Working women

The findings are corroborated by an earlier study on the ‘Impact of Household Decision Making Power on Women Empowerment in India' by Ajeet Kumar and Nalin Singh Negi.

Their survey had shown that less than one-third of women could decide about healthcare or get permission to go to a relative's house or market. They found that women's empowerment in the country increases with the age of the women and remains almost the same among different occupational groups.

Working women have a distinct advantage over non-working or unpaid working women in decision making.

However, in the case of access to money, there was no significant difference between the two groups.

They also found great regional variations in the level of women's empowerment, with highest autonomy in the North-East zone and the lowest in the North zone. State-wise women from Nagaland, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu enjoyed greater autonomy in deciding the cooking pattern, while for buying jewellery women from Goa, Kerala, Tripura, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu scored.

In making a decision on how to spend their earnings, women from Jammu, Goa and New Delhi scored over women from Nagaland, Mizoram, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

Published on July 11, 2011

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